Elder Scrolls Online has employed a unique way of doing player trading. As we all know, there are no global auction houses. What’s more is that materials used in crafting have no or quite low value when selling them to NPCs. Instead, there are trading guilds, guild merchants and merchants in Cyrodiil. Here’s a statement from Nick Konkle:

You don’t necessarily want to do a global auction house for a game with one giant server because that generally leads to all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices, a lot of times that can trivialize the game. You cannot have a healthy economy when there are no restrictions on getting the best stuff in the game.

I’ve read another statement somewhere that the way ESO does player trading is the closest they can get to simulating regional pricing for goods in a game where fast travel is a thing.

I respect both of these explanations and find it quite refreshing that a developer leaves out a “standard feature” of MMORPGs in favour of game design. However, this approach isn’t working out for me- and possibly a few other players out there, if i were to assume i’m not the only one having some trouble in using either chat or trading guilds as market places.

As i’m also playing EVE these days, i began to think about ways Elder Scrolls Online could add public market places into the game without breaking aforementioned guidelines.

Add a guild finder

I think ZOS has plans to introduce a guild finder in the game. While it’s not too difficult to find guilds who are advertising on the official forums etc., having an ingame interface would make things easier. After seeing EVE’s corp search tool, i’d wish for ESO’s to be more elaborate. In my opinion, there’s a few key factors when looking for a good fit and i think all of this should be considered when designing the guild finder:

  • Play time. Either give a few options to enter your average weekly time you spend in the game or give the option to enter time of day for your activities.
  • Gameplay focus: Questing, Dungeons, Raiding, Crafting, Trade, Thieving, Fishing, Roleplaying and PvP are already in game, with “killing” coming soon. Provide checkboxes to select the content you’re interested in.
  • Target Group: Hardcore, Casual, Social, 18+, family-friendly and more
  • Language

 

EVE's corp search is great.

EVE’s corp search is great.

When you present the results, be sure to add ways to join that guild- provide a button to text with a recruitment officer and/or a simple “apply” button with an optional text message just like they already have with friend requests.

Create regional markets

The market places / merchants would need to be located in the game world. No fancy interface, just a house in a city- let’s say one per zone. I’d also prefer it if the prices weren’t scannable by addons which could be making it easy for players to figure out where to buy/sell stuff.

Taxes

To get regionally different prices, there needs to be a way to control these prices. As you can’t rely on players to do that themselves, as you can indeed fast travel through the world, there’d need to be taxes. Luckily, Elder Scrolls Online already has something that denotes the origin of the item: the crafting motifs. So they could put different taxes on items in different regions.

Let’s say you craft an armor in breton style but want to sell it in Auridon- you could do that, but it would be heavily taxed because the Bretons aren’t even in the same alliance. I think Auridon is also Altmer territory while Grahtwood is Bosmer- you could set taxes accordingly. They’d be lower than the Breton style taxes, but still different.

Of course, there are additional styles that might not be as easy to locate in the geography of Tamriel. I don’t know enough about them to make suggestions, but i’m sure one could figure out a way.

Limit trade

Of course, you’d be able to buy on each market you visit, but selling would be restricted in some ways – otherwise, players would simply teleport around Tamriel to avoid mentioned taxes. I could think of two ways to do that:

  • limit selling for one character/account to one location. If you sell stuff on the Daggerfall market, you can’t sell anything in Wayrest, for instance.
  • limit selling by taxes, again- raise taxes for each location an account wants to sell stuff in and make it hurt, at least when the number of markets per account reach 3

Of course, one thing would happen: we’d have trade hubs in Elder Scrolls Online. But this still wouldn’t be a global market as there’d be incentives to sell in other regions (to pay lower crafting style taxes or get higher profits) and it would actually be believable.

Market Halls with player shops / guild traders

While i can understand that ZOS doesn’t want to litter the landscape with guild traders/merchants, i think there are too few of them right now to make them really interesting. It’s a nice feature, of course, if you are a member of a successful trading guild, but it’s a bit of a hassle to find one of these. If they’re not willing or able to develop easily available player trading for individuals through NPCs, they could create “market halls” in cities where a guild or individuals could open shops. Let’s say you have a building and room in there for 20 merchants- add some costs (without making them absurdly high) and allow guilds or individuals to open a shop for, say, 60 minutes. The merchant they hired will then sell their stuff for 60 minutes before the contract needs to be renewed. You could also raise the costs for each successive hire and differentiate between locations.

Create a variety of different trading guilds

ZOS could also create more than one NPC trading guild- let’s say 10 or even more. Each account has to join one and can only buy/sell stuff in this NPC guild (well, and in player guilds, obviously).

Armchair much?

Yes 🙂 But there are two things that do bother me with trade in ESO right now: first, to be able to trade, you have to find and join trading guilds. That’s an active part you have to play and you have to do this outside of the game. The second one is that one-to-many player trade isn’t part of the game system design but part of the guild system design. I get that in Elder Scrolls Lore, guilds are important, but there has to be a merchant/trading guild somewhere in the lore.

Thinking about it, improving player trade could be bolstered up to become a stand-alone DLC.